Hundreds of women from across the Borderland gathered for the Southwest Women’s Leadership Institute last week.
The first conference five years ago had 115 participants and this year more than 500 reserved their spot to learn from a line-up with multiple national speakers; this year’s event sold out rapidly, a nod to the topics and the speakers.
“I want all participants to be inspired to step out and try to be the best person, mother, sister, daughter, friend and colleague that they can be on a daily basis even though it can be a little scary,” said Anna Maria Chavez Esq., former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA and one of Fortune magazine’s greatest leaders. “I will share examples from my life where I risked big and where I learned some tough lessons. My hope is that the attendees will figure out their blueprint for their unique success by learning from me and others in the audience,” she said.
Chavez was joined by four-time, Pulitzer-nominated investigative journalist and best selling author Fawn Germer; Juliet V. Garcia, Ph.D., senior advisor – Chancellor UT System, named by Fortune Magazine World’s Greatest Leaders AND Time Magazine Top College Presidents and Elizabeth Reveles, national senior manager, learning and development for Verizon.
“The biggest challenge for women is realizing they deserve their position and can, should and must use their power,” said Germer. I want women to rise above the negative voices in their head that tell them they are not good enough, smart enough or beautiful enough,” she added.
Organizer and executive coach Aliana Apodaca said efforts like hers are important because studies show businesses do better when they have women in top roles.
The conference drew women from various industries and included 100 high school female students from the El Paso, Ysleta, Canutillo, San Elizario and Clint school districts that were paired with a mentor.
“Last year we paired 20 UTEP students with mentors at the conference,” said Apodaca. This year we raised enough money to sponsor many more participants, this time targeted high school girls. It is important they start thinking about leadership positions early and know they have role models to guide them,” she said.
Gallery of event, photos courtesy Tina Dwyer